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So back in the dead of winter, I was sent an email from my friend Sara Oehler at Soft Flex Company asking if I would like to join them in a special collaboration with the fine folks at Beads of Courage. Of course, I said yes! If you don’t know about the Beads of Courage story, please check it out here.
All I knew back in January was that I would be sent a lampwork glass bead from an artist to create what I wanted to be displayed at the Bead & Button Show in June. This lampwork bead would be rendered from a drawing by a child in the Beads of Courage program. As the main creativity sponsor, I could use any Soft Flex wire that I wanted.
What I came to find out was that there were a total of 10 regional hospitals who participated in this program. The children were given a word to represent in their drawings. These drawings were sent to 10 select lampwork artists to create about a dozen of the beads. Some went back to the child’s family, others were slated for sale and one went to a hand-picked jewelry artist to feature in a show-stopping piece of jewelry. I was one of those ten jewelry artists selected by Sara. I am so very honored to be a part of this amazing collaboration.
The beads were supposed to arrive in March and we were expected to get them back to Soft Flex by May for photographs and to be readied for their debut at a special booth at the Bead & Button Show. I didn’t get my bead until late in April. That shortened the time frame a bit and also made it imperative that I have a plan since I had to turn right around and ask for exactly the wire that I would need for the project.
The bead I received had a card that read ‘Peace’ by artist Heather Sellers of Dragonfly Lampworks. The original drawing was by Josh Wheeler, honored sibling of Brendan who is in the Beads of Courage program. (You can purchase this bead and the others through the Beads of Courage site).
But I really felt that this funny little face was more about HAPPY than peace. Of course, that song by Pharrell Williams was playing when I was sketching the design. So HAPPY it is!
I wanted this necklace design to be fun and a bit funky to match the undeniably HAPPY bead
I received to work with. Because we are doing this in collaboration
with Soft Flex, we needed to use their wire as part of the design. I
didn’t just want to string it and forget it, I wanted their product to be integral
to the piece. So I coiled and coiled and coiled and coiled colored wire
in powder blue, red, gold, black and silver until my fingers were numb!
I made a lot of jump rings from those coils and created coiled love
knots, something I do all the time with plain jump rings. I love the
texture that this provides as well as the cushion for the glass bead. I
also made some twisty free-form beads with coiled cores that were all
strung on a solid wire core for stability.
The result is a truly
off-beat statement piece that makes me HAPPY to look at! Seriously, you could not be un-HAPPY if you were wearing it. You would look foolish with a frown on your face and this on your neck!
At the Bead & Button Show I quickly found their booth out in the main hallway. I was delighted to walk up and see my creation sitting there with all those other talented artists’ work and meet the founder of Beads of Courage, Jean Baruch.
Isn’t she the cutest little sprite of a thing?! She is so positive and warm and welcoming. I felt like we had known each other for a long time after only being there for a few minutes.
Each of the pieces were displayed with a picture of the original drawing and a nice bio card. There is a connection to Jewelry Television with this project and I understand that a commemorative book is in the works as well as an airing on the JTV in the fall. They usually cast all the glass beads in pewter for a smaller, more affordable bead that can be used by the children in the program as well. I will be anxiously watching for that!
Throughout the Bead & Button Show they were accepting a $100 donation to the Beads of Courage organization to purchase the art jewelry that was created. My biggest fear is that someone would not buy my necklace, but that was completely unfounded. My necklace ‘Because I’m Happy’ sold to a generous soul and I was able to write a little personal note of thanks to the buyer before she picked it up at the end of the show.
They also sold some of the extra beads that were created as well as some of their other beads from past campaigns. My favorite was the Beads in Space mission from 2010. Fifty-six beads went on two different missions on the Shuttle Atlantis and Shuttle Endeavor. These beads were all space themed with aliens, rockets, stars and the like and the originals traveled 125,935,769 miles!
I purchased one of the last remaining replicas of the Starry Night bead by Jeri Warhaftig with a glow-from-within constellation. One of these days I will make something special enough to honor this little bead. I also got a Beads of Courage pewter Space Shuttle bead, which I will pass along to one of you, for the price of an answer to the following question:
Tell us all about your favorite out-of-this-world collaborations and this space shuttle might wing its way to you to encourage you to reach for the stars!